Vegas shooter targeted aviation fuel tanks

Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock tried setting off an explosion by aiming at fuel storage tanks located more than 600 yards from his hotel window. The Las Vegas Journal-Review reported Wednesday night that Paddock took aim at two white tanks of aviation fuel. Two of his bullets struck one of the tanks and one of those bullets penetrated the tank. Fortunately, real life is not like action movies and it’s not so easy to set off an explosion of aviation fuel:


A source knowledgeable about airport operations said jet fuel is hard to ignite and tanks like those across from Mandalay Bay have mechanisms in place to prevent fires.

Mike Boyd, a Colorado-based aviation consultant, echoed those words.

“A machine gun is not going to blow up a tank of fuel,” Boyd said. “Jet fuel itself sitting there in a big wet pile is very hard to ignite. You have to be a very amateur terrorist to think anything like that.”

The damage to the tank has now been repaired Here’s the graphic produced by the LJR:

The NY Times published a story Wednesday examining his personality through the lens of his gambling habit. He was described as calculating and creepy:

Mr. Paddock was also a “starer,” Mr. Weinreich said.

“He loved to stare at other people playing,” he said. “It was not a good thing because it would make other VIPs in the high-limit area uncomfortable.”

“One of my guests once said to me, ‘He really gives me the creeps.’”…

He was a math guy,” Eric Paddock, his youngest brother, said. “He could tell you off the top of his head what the odds were down to a tenth of a percent on whatever machine he was playing. He studied it like it was a Ph.D. thing. It was not silly gambling. It was work.”


If Paddock did just want to go out in a blaze of glory the fuel tanks make a certain twisted sense. An explosion fed by thousands of gallons of aviation fuel adjacent to the concert would have added significant chaos to the scene and stretched first responders thinner. But it seems Paddock didn’t send a lot of bullets that way, at least very few struck the target. The fiery explosion he was apparently looking for was literally a long shot. Maybe he just calculated it wasn’t going to pay off.

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John Sexton 3:20 PM on September 26, 2023